If James were conducting the Gallop Poll, he would not ask the familiar question Do you believe in God? No. That’s a moot point. There is a God, so our opinions are not necessary. I like the question Do you have faith in God? but James would probably take it a bit further. He might ask this question: What proof do you have that you have faith in God? Now that’s a good question! 😉 Why do we need proof? Here’s the answer: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?”1
And this is where we enter into the faith vs. works debate. So, let’s be clear: James is not talking about working for our salvation. We are saved when we acknowledge that we are sinners and need forgiveness and Christ has paid our debt to God; that work has been done for us. The “works” James is talking about is the proof of our faith. For “what good is it” if our faith is not visible? People need to see our faith. They need to have a reason to move from believing there is a god to having faith in God!
Believing there is a god does not affect our lives. But having faith in God—believing he is who he says he is and means what he says—that’s a life changer. And that’s why James asks for proof. People who have faith in God act differently than those who merely believe there is a god. How so? Well, I think it usually comes down to one thing: hope. 🙂
Having faith in God means I have hope on two levels: now and eternally. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”2 That’s the eternal part. Which is huge! 😁 And the now part? Here it is: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”3 Having faith that God created each of us with a specific purpose in mind is a concept people often overlook. So we must ask ourselves—we—we who have faith in God—do we truly believe what God says about our lives? 🤔 Along with being the creator of the universe, God also is our creator and he created us with a job in mind. Do we believe that? Is our life reflecting that? Because that would be proof.
Which brings us back to James’ point. Are we doing the “good works” God planned out for us to do? Because doing those works will change our lives. And guide our lives. And give purpose to our lives. And offer proof to our faith. Which is what James says we must do. And living this way—doing those good works—will help us understand what good our faith is accomplishing—which is twofold: 1) “to be conformed to the image of his son,”4 and 2) “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”5 This makes our faith good for us and good for others as well! 🙂
So, instead of asking the Gallop question Do you believe in God? ask yourself (and others) James’ question: What proof do you have that you have faith in God? The answer will determine if you are living with hope. And it will also determine if people are hopeful as they look at you. And it might determine if they end up merely believing God exists or end up actually having faith that he does! 🙂
1James 2:14 2John 3:16 3Ephesians 2:10 4Romans 8:29 52 Corinthians 5:15